Category Archives: Elections

Election-day voter registration moves forward

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are taking a step that could increase voter participation.

By a vote of 20 to 7 Thursday afternoon, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow residents to register to vote on the day of an election. Currently, an individual who wishes to cast a vote on a Tuesday must have registered to vote by the previous Wednesday.

“Those of us in this building spend a lot of time thinking about elections, but most people don’t,” said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham. “People move or go into long-term care facilities in a town where they were not originally registered to vote and didn’t get engaged until the last moment. That doesn’t mean they’re uninformed.”

Under the terms of the bill, an individual could show up at a polling place the day of an election and present documentation of residency as required by federal law, such as photo identification or a utility bill. Either the town clerk or members of the municipality’s board of civil authority would review the documentation, and if approved, the individual would be a allowed to vote that day.

Currently, 13 states, and the District of Columbia, allow election-day voter registration.

“This is a voter-rights issue,” said Sec. Of State James Condos, following the vote. “This is for the benefit of the voter, for the benefit of the citizens to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot.”

According to Condos, places that have election-day voter registration have seen their rates of participation rise 10-12 percent since implementation.

Several senators expressed concern that election-day voter registration could lead to voter fraud, including Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland — who voted for the bill — and Dustin Degree, R-Franklin, who did not.

“There are lots of problems with elections with the system we have now,” Degree said. “I think the integrity of our elections is more important than increased participation.”

White disagreed that the bill could open up the door to more voter fraud.

“There is no more potential for voter fraud than there is under the current system we use now,” White said. “If someone wants to commit fraud now, all they have to do is say they registered when they renewed their driver’s license.”

Condos downplayed the idea that voter fraud is much of an issue at all.
“We have a hard enough time getting people to vote once, never mind voting twice” Condos said “Voter fraud is really nonexistent in this country. There have been many, many accusations, but they usually filter out and there will be a logical reason for what happened.”

The bill is expected to come before the Senate for final approval Friday.

Capitol Beat with the Governor 3-6-15

Play

Gov. Peter Shumlin sits down with Vermont Press Bureau Chief Neal P. Goswami and discusses recent poll numbers on his job performance.

Labor costs, guns and organs: Capitol Beat, Feb. 16, 2015

Play

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and VPB reporter Josh O’Gorman chat about the showdown between the Shumlin administration and the Vermont State Employee’s Association over labor costs, the state of gun legislation in the State House and a bill that would make organ donation the default option in Vermont. Also, Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Editor Steve Pappas talks about a few stories he’s worked on in the past couple of weeks, including a profile of Rep. Janet Ancel and Sen. Tim Ashe, the lawmakers that chair the taxing committees in the State House. He also updates on a potential second bid for governor by Republican Scott Milne. Lots going on in this episode — have a listen.

Check out recent episodes of City Room with Steve Pappas, which are discussed in today’s podcast episode:

Scott Milne episode

Paul Costello and Ted Brady episode

Vermont lawmakers consider changing election rules

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont Senate Committee is scheduled Wednesday to take up an amendment to the state Constitution that could make it easier to elect a governor and other top officials.

The Senate Government Operations Committee is looking at a range of proposals to get rid of the current rule in the Vermont Constitution that governors, lieutenant governors and treasurers must get more than 50 percent of the vote to be elected. That came into play this year when the Legislature had to re-elect Gov. Peter Shumlin who failed to win an outright majority in November.

Proposals range from allowing a plurality winner to take the election to instant runoff voting.

Podcast: Capitol Beat with the Governor 1-9-15

Play

Gov. Peter Shumlin sits down with Vermont Press Bureau Chief Neal Goswami for the first Capitol Beat with the Governor podcast of the legislative session.

After being re-elected to a third term by lawmakers on Thursday, Gov. Peter Shumlin delivered his inaugural address amid protests over his decision to shelve a universal, publicly financed health care system because of its cost. Listen to this week’s episode to hear the governor address all of it.

Gov. Peter Shumlin records the Capitol Beat podcast on Friday.

Gov. Peter Shumlin records the Capitol Beat podcast on Friday.

 

Shumlin elected to 3rd term by lawmakers

MONTPELIER — Vermont Lawmakers have re-elected Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin to a third term, ending months of uncertainty since the mid-term election.

Shumlin received 110 votes from the 180 members of the Democratic-led Legislature. Republican Scott Milne tallied 69 votes.

Gov. Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin

The Legislature fulfilled its constitutional duty to elect a governor Thursday morning after no candidate received a majority of the popular vote in November. Shumlin, at the time, edged out Milne by just 2,434 votes, but only garnered about 46 percent of the votes cast. Milne received about 45 percent of the vote, while Libertarian Dan Feliciano received 4 percent support.

Milne had launched a campaign of sorts in recent days, running targeted ads on social media. He also received the benefit of television ads paid for by a group called Vermonters for Honest Government, founded and funded by Derby resident Bill Round.

Scott Milne

Scott Milne

The governor is due to deliver his inaugural address in the House chamber Thursday afternoon.

A full story will appear in Friday’s editions of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald.

Official tally shows Shumlin wins plurality; Milne has today to challenge

Scott Milne

Scott Milne

MONTPELIER – An official tally shows Gov. Peter Shumlin received 2,434 more votes than Republican challenger Scott Milne during last week’s election.

Wednesday morning, the Canvassing Committee – consisting of representatives from the state Democrat, Liberty Union, progressive and Republican parties – met at the Sec. of State’s Office to sign off on official voter results, which confirmed the unofficial results that have been posted online for the past few days.

Shumlin received 89,509 votes, compared with 87,075 for Milne, which gave Shumlin a 1.3-percent edge over his closest competitor. Libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano finished third in a field of seven with 8,428 votes.

With such a narrow margin, Milne has the right to request a recount, and has until the end of the day to do so.

Neither candidate received more than 50 percent of votes overall – Shumlin received 46.4 percent to Milne’s 45.1 percent – which leaves the final decision in the hands of the Legislature in January.

Unofficial results give Shumlin plurality by 1.26 percent

The Vermont Secretary of State’s office posted unofficial results of Tuesday’s mid-term election Saturday morning showing that Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has won a plurality of votes over Republican challenger Scott Milne by a 2,434 vote margin.

The results show an increase of about 300 votes from the tally The Associated Press revealed earlier this week.

The results will not be official until early next week when they are certified by the state’s Canvassing Committee.

According to the Secretary of State’s results, Shumlin received 89,509 votes, while Milne received 87,075 votes. Libertarian Dan Feliciano received 8,428 votes.

Shumlin’s votes account for 46.36 percent of the votes. Milne’s tally represents 45.1 percent of the vote. Because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, the newly elected Legislature must choose a governor when the new legislative biennium kicks off in January.

Milne is currently considering requesting a recount. He is entitled to a recount, if he wishes, under state law because the margin between the first and second place finishers is less than 2 percent.

Milne is also considering making his case to lawmakers that they should choose him as the next governor based on how their individual legislative districts voted. Milne has said he will announce his plans when the state’s election results are official.

Unofficial results posted Saturday by the Secretary of State's office

Unofficial results posted Saturday by the Secretary of State’s office

Milne not ready to concede

BURLINGTON — Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne canceled a news conference he had planned for Wednesday morning as his race against incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin remained tight.

Instead, Milne issued a statement around 10:00 a.m. saying he would wait for the final numbers to be reported before making any further comments.

“What is clear is that the majority of Vermonters do not agree with the path that we are on. We are going to wait for the final numbers,” Milne said. “I am incredibly grateful to all of the Vermonters who cast their ballots on my behalf yesterday. I owe it to my supporters and all Vermonters to see the totals before we make any further statements.”

Scott Milne

Scott Milne

Milne was at the Sheraton Hotel in Burlington Wednesday morning but did not come down to the lobby where the media had assembled for his expected news conference.

Shumlin, a two-term incumbent, maintained a narrow lead over Milne, a Pomfret businessman, throughout Tuesday night and in to Wednesday morning. Milne was trailing Shumlin by about 2,300 votes Wednesday morning with 273 of 275 precincts reporting, according to an Associated Press tally.

Shumlin has 89,687 votes to Milne’s 87,354 votes, according to the AP’s numbers.

Shumlin issued a statement around 11:40 a.m. saying it is “clear” he has the lead.

“We’ve taken a close look at the numbers. While I will await final counts and further statements from Scott Milne, it is clear we are ahead and I’m confident that I’ve received the most votes. Serving as governor has been the greatest privilege of my life and I will be proud to continue leading this great state. I understand how close this election was and I want Vermonters to know that I will be working hard for each and every one of them,” he said.

What looks to be an extremely narrow margin of victory for Shumlin likely scuttles the governor’s dream of implementing a single payer health care system in Vermont, and likely damage any future political ambitions he holds.

Shumlin was unable to pull away to a comfortable margin even with a large boost in Burlington, where Shumlin beat Milne by about 4,000 votes. Voters were clearly discontent with Shumlin, who received far less support than other Democrats running statewide.

Milne, whose campaign spending — $211,000 to Shumlin’s nearly $900,000 — paled in comparison to the governor, entered the race for governor late and was expected to be easily defeated by the governor. But he appeared to be benefiting from discontent with Shumlin and a strong GOP wave that was sweeping across the country.

Gov. Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin

An October poll showed Shumlin’s approval rating nearly underwater with 45 percent approving of his performance as governor and 41 percent disapproving. Shumlin has faced more than a year of bad press as Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online insurance marketplace mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act, continued to struggle and lack core functions.

And a land deal Shumlin made last year with a neighbor with intellectual disabilities appeared to still be resonating with some voters.

Shumlin, throughout the campaign, continued to tout his proposal for a single payer health care plan for the state that he hopes to launch in 2017. He has promised to deliver a financing plan to lawmakers and the public in January, two years after Act 48, the law laying the foundation for his plan, called for it to be revealed.

Voters, however, seemed to be more interested in hearing about property tax relief and plans to reform how the state funds its K-12 public education system.

Libertarian Dan Feliciano, who was embraced by some conservatives who were dissatisfied with Milne, had received 7,989 votes, or about 4.35 percent. Some Republicans had urged Feliciano to drop out of the race to boost Milne’s chances of victory. Feliciano could be seen as spoiling a major upset if Milne cannot close the gap with Shumlin.

Election Day live updates

Barre
3:35 p.m.
With less than four hours before polls close, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne is making a final push for Washington County voters, but he had to leave his biggest sign behind.

Milne and supporters held signs and waved to motorists in downtown Barre near the “Youth Triumphant” statue, but the campaign’s largest sign remained in the back of a pickup parked on the street nearby.

The sign – measuring approximately 4 feet 6 feet – had been out on the triangle of grass that marks the end of North Main Street until a city official came by and told him he had to remove it, Milne said.

Milne campaigns in Barre Tuesday afternoon. (Josh O'Gorman/staff photo)

Milne campaigns in Barre Tuesday afternoon. (Josh O’Gorman/staff photo)

Milne said the official told him he was allowed to display hand-held signs only. Mayor Thomas Lauzon – who endorsed Gov. Peter Shumlin in October – did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Milne spent Tuesday morning campaigning in Windsor County before coming to the capital area.

“I think the higher the turnout in Washington County, the better it will be for me,” Milne said.
-Josh O’Gorman

Photos by Stefan Hard

Montpelier
3:15 p.m.
Things were running smoothly about lunchtime at the polling place at Montpelier’s City Hall, where City Clerk John Odum said compared to two years ago, a presidential election, when voters were lined up on the stairs all the way through to the back of City Hall, it was orderly and well-paced.

Two years ago, for the Presidential election, the lines were down the stairs, and snaked through the back of City Hall — and a voting machine malfunctioned, complicating things, recalled Odum.

With less traffic coming through, and no mechanical issues to report this year, Odum said things were going extremely smoothly.

There were many early votes cast, said Odum, who said turnout through the morning hours had been “steady, not enormous.”

Montpelier’s City Hall was a busy place – with many candidates campaigning out front of City Hall, candidate signs everywhere around City Hall, even the back door, and many parking meters blocked off, and reserved for voting only.
-Amy Nixon

East Montpelier
2:45 p.m.
Voting was busier on Election Day morning than Town Clerk Terri Conti expected, she said.

“It’s actually busier than I thought it was going to be, it’s been steady and consistent,” she said.

By mid-morning, just a few hours in, about 25 percent of the town’s about 2,000 registered voters had come through the polling place. With people checking in, many busy behind curtains filling out their ballots, and several on their way to drop their ballots in the box, the official polling place was bustling.

Stopping into East Montpelier Elementary School to vote on Tuesday was, for many town residents, the first time they had seen the inside of the recently completed $8 million renovation to the school.

That taxes are due in two weeks, a chance to actually stop into the brightly-patterned school and see the top-to-bottom renovation, even from a quick look coming in the side door to the polling place, gave voters a feel for the renovation project their tax dollars underwrote, noted Conti. She said people were making comments about how nice the school turned out.

“People are very impressed with the new school,” said Conti, noting the due date for taxes is creeping up this month. “It makes it an easier pill to swallow,” she said of the increase in people’s taxes to cover the school renovation bond.

Election Day, Conti said, “Is my favorite day; you get to see everybody,” she said, getting up to hug someone. “I love my job.”
-Amy Nixon

Montpelier
2:15 p.m.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Ivan Shadis, the youngest of the candidates from Montpelier hoping to land a state representative seat for Washington County 4, said the day for him was “spectacular.”

“It’s a day I’ve really been looking forward to for a long time,” said Shadis, 26, wearing a winter cap and warm flannel shirt, standing with a handmade sign bearing his name in front of Montpelier City Hall.

“It’s particularly rewarding to see my supporters,” smiled Shadis, a city native who ran as a Progressive, challenging incumbents Mary Hooper and Warren Kitzmiller, both also at City Hall mid-day Tuesday.

The back entrance to Montpelier City Hall on Tuesday. (Amy Nixon/staff photo)

The back entrance to Montpelier City Hall on Tuesday. (Amy Nixon/staff photo)

Several of Shadis’s supporters, including some family members at City Hall pulling for him, made him feel valued for the issues he brought to the forefront as a young candidate. Shadis raised issues about housing costs being too high, obstacles in finding decent-paying work, and called for a progressive tax to help improve the picture for those struggling to make ends meet in Vermont.

Of feeling his message was heard, Shadis said, “That itself has made this day spectacular.”

Shadis said he knows a number of people who were “reticent about politics,” at the start of the campaign, who have become impassioned and involved since and that means a lot to him.

“It’s a bit of political culture that I can feel proud to have put some work into,” Shadis said with a smile. He said he plans to stay involved — and be back. “This is our town,” he said of the need for younger voters to be heard.
-Amy Nixon

Barre
1:10 p.m.
Why not me?

One Barre voter, disappointed by the Republican Party’s failure to field a candidate for Secretary of State this year, apparently asked himself that question while filling out his ballot today.

“I wrote myself in,” he said before strolling out of the Barre Municipal Auditorium.
-David Delcore

Barre
1 p.m.
There were a couple of morning lulls, but voting was otherwise steady at the Barre Municipal Auditorium this morning.

At noon 1,097 of the Granite City’s 4,950 voters had cast ballots – a figure that included more than 400 of the 477 early and absentee ballots that were in hand when the polls opened five hours earlier.

With five hours to go and most of the absentee ballots already accounted for, the pace of voting will have to pick up considerably to match the turnout in the last mid-term elections. In 2010 a total of 2,772 Barre voters participated in the November election.
-David Delcore

Barre Town
11:52 a.m.
Finding parking was occasionally challenging for voters and a mid-morning power problem briefly disabled one of the vote tabulating machines, but today’s election otherwise got off to a smooth start in Barre Town.

By 11 a.m. 776 of the town’s 5,492 registered voters had made the trip to Barre Town Elementary and Middle School where school was in session and the parking lot was filled to capacity.

According to Town Clerk Donna Kelty the 776 voters who cast ballots in the first four hours after the polls opened in the school gymnasium did not include 677 early and absentee ballots that had been requested from her office in the weeks leading up to the election. Kelty said two “super huge boxes” of those ballots were being processed.

Kelty said a “power failure” that briefly idled a vote tabulating machine around 9 a.m. Was quickly resolved.
-David Delcore

Barre
9:30 a.m.
Nearly 450 Granite City voters didn’t wait until today to cast their ballots.

When the polls opened at the Barre Municipal Auditorium at 7 a.m. City Clerk Carol Dawes had roughly 400 voted ballots in hand and was waiting for about 50 more to be returned.

Dawes said 447 of the city’s 4,950 registered voters either voted early or requested absentee ballots.vote-button

Still, Dawes described today’s early turnout as “medium-steady.”

In the first 30 minutes 192 voters cast ballots and by 9 a.m. that number had swelled to roughly 275, not counting the absentee ballots that were being fed into the voting machine by poll workers.

-David Delcore

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Milne makes “The Daily Show”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne made his debut on “The Daily Show” Wednesday night in host Jon Stewart’s closing “Moment of Zen” clip. It features Milne incorrectly stating where he was born as he introduced himself at a recent debate sponsored by Vermont PBS.

Scott tops $200,000 in contributions

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott reported raising $38,000 during the latest campaign finance reporting period. That brings his total contributions for the campaign to $202,000. He has spent about $150,000 so far.

Read the report below:

Shumlin adds another $100k, spends big on TV ads

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s Oct. 1 campaign finance report shows he raised more than $100,000 in the past few weeks. Most of his campaign contributions came from larger donors. The report also shows that Shumlin has spent more than $200,000 on television advertisements.

Read the report below:

Poll: Shumlin leads Milne by double digits

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is leading Republican challenger Scott Milne 48 percent to 36 percent, according to a poll released Friday by Rasmussen Reports.

According to Rasmussen, the survey of 700 likely voters in Vermont was conducted Aug. 28 to Aug. 29 by. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. Field work was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

The poll did not include Libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano. Although Milne easily secured the GOP nomination in Tuesday’s primary, Feliciano was able to secure double digit support thanks to an aggressive write-in campaign. He will appear on the general election ballot as the Libertarian nominee.

Shumlin taps Coriell to head campaign

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Friday that he has tapped Scott Coriell to head his re-election bid, which will have a kick-off event on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Coriell has served as a special assistant to Shumlin since September 2013, and was previously the communications director for Democratic Rep. Peter Welch. Coriell will leave his position in the governor’s office immediately to begin working on the campaign.

“My campaign will focus on the challenges and opportunities facing our great state in the years ahead,” Shumlin a vacationing Shumlin said in a statement sent out by his campaign finance director. “We have made great progress, but I will not rest until all Vermonters have the economic security and quality of life they deserve. It has been a great honor to serve as Vermont’s governor and I look forward to traveling the state over the coming weeks and asking Vermonters for their support for two more years of progress.”

Details about the kick-off event will be released next week, according to the campaign.